2018 AFC West Outright Odds, Preview and Prediction
AFC West Preview and Prediction
Few, if any Division, in the National Football League has as much talent as the AFC West. Every team has a chance at the playoffs and, if things break the right way, any of the four could make a run at the Super Bowl. Going into the season, the top dog in the Division is the Los Angeles Chargers. With a savvy veteran quarterback and criminally underrated defence, the Chargers are well set up to capture their first AFC West crown since 2009.
AFC West Outright Winner Odds
No Division in the NFL entering the 2018 regular season sees as small a difference in odds for the outright winner as the AFC West. The Chargers are the favourite to win in 2018. If they win, it represents their first AFC West Title since 2009 (when they were still the San Diego Chargers).
*Odds as of July 22, 2018, from Sports Interaction
While the Chargers are the favourite to win the AFC West in 2018, over the last eight years the decade has been dominated by the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. Denver has five Division titles, while the Chiefs have won the other three. Oakland’s last title came in 2002.
AFC West Team Previews
From top to bottom, the AFC West may be the best Division in the NFL. Each team has a chance at the AFC West crown in 2018. However, with three of the franchises going through the drastic changes this offseason, the Chargers enter 2018 as the best bet to win the Division.
Los Angeles Chargers
As Philip Rivers enters the final years of his career, it is now or never for the Chargers to make a final push at their franchise’s first Super Bowl. Luckily, for Rivers, the organization has done a great job the last few seasons surrounding the seven-time Pro Bowler with talent.
The Chargers offensive line is improving, they have a great running back in Melvin Gordon and have a deep receiving core helmed by Keenan Allen. If Allen is healthy in 2018, he could finish the season as an All-Pro wide receiver. While an offseason injury to tight end Hunter Henry hurts, the Chargers still have a better offence than anyone else in the Division.
Where the Chargers deserve more respect is on the defensive side of the ball. The Chargers defence was as good as Jacksonville and Minnesota last season, ranking third in points allowed and second in Defensive SRS (which measures every defence against the league average). Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram form one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL. The Chargers also have exceptional depth in the secondary and a strong pool of linebackers.
Kansas City Chiefs
Although the Kansas City Chiefs have a talented roster, trading Alex Smith to move on to sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the big thing garnering people’s attention entering the 2018 season. The Chiefs could not get over the hump with Smith, but the hope switching to Mahomes (stylistically a much different quarterback than Smith), is the key change they need to reach their first Super Bowl in 50 years.
The Chiefs surround Mahomes with great playmakers on offence. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NFL. Hill, along with tight end Travis Kelce and running back Kamar Hunt, give the Chiefs an explosive offence.
The Chiefs problem is more on the defensive side of the ball. Once an elite unit, the Chiefs ageing core is slipping and no longer reliable to carry the team when the offence struggled. If Mahomes, who only started one game in his rookie season, is shaky than the Chiefs could find themselves in too many games their roster is not built to win. Even if Mahomes is spectacular, the Chiefs roster is still a notch below the Los Angeles Chargers.
After a disappointing 2017 NFL season, the Raiders made a significant change, firing head coach Jack Del Rio and bringing in Jon Gruden. Including the postseason, Gruden is 100-85 in his NFL coaching career with one Super Bowl. The problem for Gruden and the Raiders is Gruden has not coached in the NFL since the 2008 season.
Gruden is more offensive minded than former head coach Jack Del Rio. His goal is to help quarterback Derek Carr. Carr is fringing into elite status, but injuries hampered his 2017 NFL season. Also, the loss of Michael Crabtree and the inconsistency of Amari Cooper leave Carr without a reliable receiving target.
Defensively, the Oakland Raiders are the weakest team in the Division. While Khalil Mack is a superstar pass-rusher, the rest of their defence is at or below average. Still many of their players are young and developing. If just a few make positive gains in 2018, the Raiders could threaten the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs in 2018.
The Denver Broncos made a splash in the offseason, signing Case Keenum to start at quarterback. Keenum was mighty impressive as the Vikings’ main signal-caller in 2017, helping the team to a 13-3 record and an NFC Conference Championship appearance. While Keenum is an upgrade at quarterback for Denver, the Broncos still have other holes to fill on their roster.
The Broncos most substantial issue is the offensive line. The unit was amongst the worst in the NFL last season and may not improve as much as many hope in 2018. If the group is as bad as last season, Keenum may struggle to find wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. While both are coming off their worst season in years, the two form a reliable one-two punch when paired with the right quarterback.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos are good but continue to lose pieces that made their defence elite in their 2016 Super Bowl run. While Von Miller remains one of the best defensive players in the NFL, the rest of the front seven is relatively average. The Broncos do have talent in the secondary, even with the departure of Aqib Talib. Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby are a strong set of cornerbacks, while Darian Stewart is a reliable presence in the middle of the field.
AFC West Winner Prediction
The AFC West is the Chargers Division to lose in 2018. They have the most talented roster, best quarterback and a smart, young head coach. As long as the Chargers do not suffer any lengthy injuries to their stars (primarily Rivers, Allen, Gordon or Bosa), the Chargers should win the AFC West and potentially even challenge for the top spot in the Conference.
The other three teams all have a chance at the playoffs. If Carr and Gruden mesh well, the Raider could play more as they did in 2016 (when they 12-4) then 2017 (then they finished 6-10). The Chiefs are always a tricky matchup with Andy Reid’s offensive system maximizing their playmakers. And if Keenum is as good as last year and Von Miller is a Defensive Player of the Year, the Broncos could have enough to snag a Wild Card spot.
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